The Jimmy Kimmel test is very simple: No family should be denied medical care, and any legislation that falls short of it fails this test. But this test can be applied to a third casino in Connecticut. It’s simple, really. All lawmakers have to do is ask their constituents: Do you want a casino in your town?
Here’s how the conversation might go.
The town residents assemble for a meeting. Let’s imagine this happens in Berlin (the hometown of House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz), or Norwalk (Sen. Majority Leader Bob Duff’s home).
The elected official addresses the crowd:
“We want to build a casino in our town. It may reduce our tax rate. We will have extra money for town services. But there could be some problems. It will be open 24 x 7 and we can expect an increase risk of drunk driving,” the lawmaker says.
People in the audience are looking at one another.
Our lawmaker continues: “But the state can expect $77 million in new revenue and our town grand list will increase 20 percent. We might even lower property taxes. The casino will draw many people in a 20-mile radius. To make these revenue numbers, people will have to lose a lot of money. A casino relies heavily on problem gamblers. And about the jobs. The casino will create jobs. But it will take jobs because money otherwise spent locally will be spent at the casino.”
Someone in the audience stands up and asks: “Have you conducted any studies to examine the casino’s impact on traffic, on our local economy and property values, our DUI risk? And how many additional gambling addicts will the casino create?”
The lawmakers can answer this question easily: “No.”
The truth is that State Rep. Aresimowicz or Sen. Duff could not sell a casino in their hometowns. They know it. The opposition will be fierce because the risks and the questions are too great.
If they couldn’t sell a casino in their backyards, why do they want one in my backyard?
Approving a casino in someone else’s town, when you don’t want one in your town, is the very definition of sociopathic behavior.
Don’t take East Windsor’s support of a casino as indicative of widespread backing by its citizenry. This town has been shameless. Instead funding a study to see how the casino might impact its town, it hired a lobbyist to win support for the casino. It doesn’t want its residents to know the full truth.
The East Windsor Police Dept. provided testimony to lawmakers on the casino’s impact. It is six pages, single space. Amazingly, it doesn’t discuss the drunk driving risk at all.
There were plans to have former U.S. Rep. Bob Steele speak at an East Windsor senior center about gambling. He’s an opponent. The town didn’t allow him to speak, the Journal Inquirer reported.
The East Windsor casino is near Enfield’s border, my town. It’s right across the river from Windsor Locks. The problems this casino will create will spill into our communities. East Windsor gets $8.5 million from the casino, which it can use to mitigate the problems in its town. What do the neighboring town’s get? Nothing.
Here is the moral dilemma. If lawmakers approve this casino they will doing so knowing that a 2009 state-sponsored study reported an increase in DUI arrests in towns near the tribal casinos. This data isn’t complete. It doesn’t connect arrests to accidents with injuries. But the report’s findings are strong enough to raise a red flag.
A casino in East Windsor may put North Central Connecticut residents at an elevated risk of injury and death. People may leave the casino with too much drink, or too tired to handle dark and windy roads in our area. It’s a fair concern.
The Jimmy Kimmel test is perfect for this situation. The residents of East Windsor, Enfield, Windsor Locks, Suffield should not have to worry about things that the residents of Berlin and Norwalk will never have to worry about. We deserve equal protection under the law.
Patrick Thibodeau is a resident of Enfield.